Edward Snowden wins Sweden's 'alternative Nobel prize'

image copyrightEPA/Guardian
image captionThe Right Livelihood Award foundation released an undated photo of Mr Snowden

Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden is one of the winners of the 2014 Right Livelihood Award, described as Sweden's "alternative Nobel prize".

He splits the honorary award with Alan Rusbridger, editor of UK newspaper The Guardian, which wrote extensively on government surveillance, based on his leaks.

Cash prizes went to three activists from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the US.

Mr Snowden's award seems to have caused embarrassment in Sweden.

It was due to be announced on Thursday, at the Swedish foreign ministry in Stockholm, but this year the organisers were denied access and news of the laureates was leaked a day early to Swedish public broadcaster SVT.

'Courage and skill'

The 2014 prize was awarded to Mr Snowden for "his courage and skill in revealing the unprecedented extent of state surveillance violating basic democratic processes and constitutional rights".

Mr Rusbridger was honoured for "building a global media organisation dedicated to responsible journalism in the public interest, undaunted by the challenges of exposing corporate and government malpractices".

The three people sharing the cash prize of 1.5m kronor (£128,300; 163,300 euros; $210,000) are Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jahangir, Sri Lankan-born Basil Fernando of the Asian Human Rights Commission and US environmentalist Bill McKibben.

The Right Livelihood Award has previously been awarded to such people as Chinese solar power pioneer Huang Ming (2011) and a group of Israeli doctors who worked in the occupied Palestinian territories (2010).

Mr Snowden has settled in Russia since fleeing the US last year, when he leaked secret documents belonging to the National Security Agency (NSA) to The Guardian and other media.

His revelations have sparked a debate in the US over the appropriate role of the NSA and the extent to which it should be authorised to conduct broad surveillance.

The leaks have also caused diplomatic embarrassment to the US in its dealings with close allies in Europe such as Germany.

"For the last 18 years, the winners have been announced in the press room of the Foreign Department in Stockholm," SVT wrote on its website.

"But when the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, received the information late last week that one of the five recipients this year is the American whistle blower Edward Snowden, he refused to allow the prize to be announced in the foreign department's building - despite a previous agreement, according to information to SVT."

Contacted by AP news agency, the Swedish foreign ministry referred questions to Mr Bildt's spokesman, Erik Zsiga, who did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Mr Bildt is currently in New York, attending the UN General Assembly.

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